Learning how to cook authentic Italian dishes is something that many aspire to, and what better place for it than Venice. The city is known for its seafood and cicchetti, snacks and finger food served in bacaro or wine bars. One cookery course that gets universally positive reviews on TripAdvisor as the best cooking school in Venice is Enrica Rocca Cooking School. Enrica was born in Venice and knows the city’s foodie spots very well. Her classes start with a visit to the Rialto Food Market, and that’s where we met up with her and the rest of the group.
Our friendly classmates were from South Carolina and Massachusetts and keen cooks. Enrica herself is an engaging person who also arranges private dinners in Venetian palaces for luxury brands in addition to running her cookery courses. She has also written a book featuring recipes from Venice and photographed on beautiful Murano glass plates.
She explained to us that there are less people now living in Venice and therefore the market’s stall holders find it harder to make a living. Some are now selling dried herbs in sachets rather than the fresh version as many of their clientele are not Venetians. Thankfully, there are still plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Just look at the colours of these beauties! Enrica showed us how to choose the freshest fish by lifting up the gills to check that they are red. She also advised that when visiting a market, you should go not with a specific ingredient list in mind but instead choose from the freshest and most appealing products available on the day.
Once our shopping was done, Enrica took us to one of her favourite cicchetti places, All’Arco. Its name comes from its location, tucked away on a backstreet beneath an arch. It serves up small open sandwiches and other snacks that go nicely with an Aperol Spritz.
We then took a private water taxi to Enrica’s colourful home in Dorsoduro, to begin the cooking. One of our classmates explained that she had chosen Enrica’s course not just because of the rave reviews but also as she goes ahead even if one or two people cancel. This is in contrast to some other places where unless there’s a full class, it may not go ahead.
Enrica welcomed us with a chilled glass of her family’s own Prosecco. It had very fine bubbles and a pleasing fruity taste. She then introduced us to her daughter Charlotte, whom Paul and I had previously met with her sister Claire at their Notting Hill cookery school. In both London and Venice, Paul and I appreciated the fact that we were all given different tasks to do. That meant that we didn’t struggle to keep up and could all help our classmates out.
We also got to meet Enrica’s cute dog, who slept through most of the class.
Paul prepared a tuna tartare with chopped avocado and coriander by dicing the fish into cubes, then adding lime juice and a Japanese sauce. It is not easy to get hold of in Venice but Enrica finds that it gives the dish an added dimension. She also recommends Maldon salt from Britain for seasoning many recipes.
Next we cooked Venetian baby shrimps, fished from the lagoon. They were dipped in flour before being briefly deep fried and were utterly delicious.
I then chopped up lemon zest into a very fine julienne. Being left-handed, I always find this a bit of a challenge but Enrica patiently showed me the correct way to hold the knife for maximum efficiency. I then prepared langoustines by removing the head and shell, whilst the others chopped up pumpkin and shelled beans for a warming Autumnal soup. Aren’t the pods just beautiful?
Meanwhile, one of our fellow classmates cleaned the wild mushrooms with a special brush.
In no time at all, our dishes were ready to enjoy. Accompanied by more of that delicious Prosecco, we savoured the efforts of our labour…and I have to say it was all very tasty. Paul’s favourite was the deep-fried shrimps whilst I had a soft spot for the bean and chorizo soup.
The veal and mushroom fricassee was equally moreish…
…and a mozzarella and tomato salad was bursting with flavour.
As for the langoustines, they worked really well with the courgette, herb and lemon.
As you can see, it made a very attractive plate of food.
My one regret is that we had to leave before the dessert as I had a massage booked in. Enrica does advise not to reserve an evening restaurant on the day of your class as you’re likely to be full! However, here’s a photo of the tiramisu that we made in London, it’s a family recipe so you can be sure it will be as good in Venice. We thoroughly enjoyed our cookery class, not just for the skills that we learnt but also for the tips on Venice hidden gems and the fun company. It could well be the best cooking school in Venice. Have you ever been on a cookery class?
Enrica Rocca, Dorsoduro 568/A – 30123 Venice, Italy